It’s time to give everyone in the Utah Jazz organization credit for the recent play the core four, even if they aren’t playing as often as they should.
Since 1985, five NBA players have recorded 20 points and 20 rebounds in a single game by the age of 20. Former No. 1 overall pick Dwight Howard did it in his 89th career start. Former No. 1 overall pick Joe Smith did it in his 39th career start. DeJuan Blair did it in his 14th career start. Former No. 1 overall pick Shaquille O’Neal amazingly did it in his 4th career start. Move over everybody, Enes Kanter did it in career start number two.
Using his current averages, spread out to 36 minutes a game, Derrick Favors would average 15 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks a game. Only Dwight Howard currently averages those numbers in the league. He started for the Western Conference All-Star team this year, his sixth start in seven career all-star games.
Gordon Hayward is one of eight players this season averaging 14 or more points per game, shooting better than 40% from the field, and 39% from behind the three point line. Of those eight, five are all-stars (L. James, K. Durant, D. Nowitzki, S. Curry, K. Irving.) Of the two others; Kevin Martin has nearly 400 career starts under his belt, and OJ Mayo has started every game for the Dallas Mavericks this season.
Since February 4th, Alec Burks has played 25+ minutes in all but one of those games. During this stretch, he’s averaging 11 points, 4.5 rebounds, three assists, and one steal per game. He’s also shooting lights out, 46% from the field, a whopping 48% from the three-point line. Yet Burks is the only lottery pick from the 2011 NBA Draft who has yet to start an NBA game.
Friday, March 1st was the first time each of the Jazz “core four” had played 20+ minutes all in the same game. The Jazz held the admittedly awful Charlotte Bobcats to 68 points, the low for any Jazz opponent this year, and the lowest scoring output by the Bobcats this season, including a season worst nine point opening quarter. The Jazz had been outscored in the first quarter of eight of their previous 10 games.
While it’s easy to complain about the lack of playing time seen from these former lottery picks, especially considering the Jazz mediocre play as of late, it is time to give credit where credit is due. President of Basketball Operations Kevin O’Connor turned Deron Williams, Ben Handlogten, and Keon Clark into Favors, Kanter and Hayward. It’s nearly impossible to get equal return when trading a superstar, but O’Connor proactively moved on a potentially disastrous situation, and the results have been all positive. Coach Tyrone Corbin, who’s made the decision to limit the playing time of these four young players, has found a way to keep each ready to perform when their number is called, and has placed each of them in positions to succeed when they do get a chance to play.
But most importantly, credit must be given to each of the Jazz four youngest players. Despite their lack of starts, and overall minutes, each of these up and comers has kept any frustrations private, shown a commitment to Tyrone Corbin’s game plan, and done nothing but make the Jazz a better team when given the opportunity.